Casey Ashley logged in 23 pounds, 2 ounces during the first day of competition in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic — and he wasn’t surprised at all.
“I really expected to catch them today,” the Donalds Bassmaster pro said. “I couldn’t sleep last night. My eyes popped open at 12:30 (a.m.), and I just laid in the dark for the next three hours.”
The day’s catch put him into fifth place going into Day 2.
But the fishing initially was less than stellar.
“This morning kind of scared me,” Ashley said. “The fish were hitting short and slapping at the bait.”
He still managed to catch 10 or 11 fish that would weigh 12 or 13 pounds before noon.
And then things really picked up, and he had a string of chunks that eventually ended up on the scales.
“I caught everything I (weighed) in 20 or 30 minutes,” Ashley said.
The storm that threw so many competitors off their games didn’t impact Ashley’s areas.
“It’s pretty protected,” he said.
He had identified a very shallow bite that held together despite the changing conditions.
“The water temperature was 39 degrees Saturday, and I still caught them in 2 feet of water,” Ashley said. “I caught a 7 and a 5 in practice.”
The key was focusing on isolated grass on shallow spawning flats.
“My boat never gets any deeper than 5 feet,” he said. “I fished in 2 to 3 feet of water.”
His productive area is only about or 12 acres in size, but he didn’t have any other bass fishermen in the area. He worried that might change — which could really have a big impact on his success.
“If it’s packed with anglers (tomorrow), I’m in trouble,” Ashely said.
What he does have going for him is knowing exactly where to fish and how the bass are positioned.
“You kind of have to fish around; you can’t sit in one spot and catch them,” Ashley said.
And he knows there are plenty of fish to be caught.
“There are a lot of 4- to 5-pounders in there,” he said.
While he won’t turn away genuine lunkers, Ashley said he believed he could win if he continues to land the quality fish populating the area.
“I think a fella, if he catches five fish like that ever day, he’ll be sitting pretty,” Ashley said.